Published: June 2019
Jonathan Black, the notorious Wall Street equity trader, runs his desk with an iron fist. Without warning, unpredictable events turn his world upside down. Following a “friendly” corporate merger, Blackie learns the desk he used to run is gone forever. The job he cherishes has yielded to computerized, algorithmic formulas. Adding salt to the wound, he must defend himself against charges of felony insider-trading, having made $2.5 million using non-public information. He is on the street, without a job and under the gun.
Agent Margaret Stark of the FBI’s white-collar crimes unit, known for her “take no prisoners” approach, investigates Blackie. Maggie is certain that, after many frustrating months trying to unlock an insider-trading ring, she has found the key. Blackie had the means, motive and opportunity to commit the crime. The reader learns of deep personal reasons fueling her desire to take him, and all like him, down.
A direct attempt, forcing him to come clean is a complete failure. Maggie must accept that Blackie is no ordinary felon. She adopts a more subtle approach. On the surface, she will offer him a chance to clear his name by working several stings, including insider trading, mortgage fraud, jury tampering and a Ponzi scheme, where Blackie is the bait. She calls them Assignments. In reality, she designs her projects to give her adversary the maximum opportunity to trip up. When Blackie initially resists the deal, Maggie uses a carrot and stick. She argues a court would look kindly on his cooperation. On the other hand, if he refuses, she vows to continue to use all her resources to take him down.
As the assignments progress, Maggie learns there is far more to this man than his hostile trading-desk persona. While searching for clues about the illegal trade, she discovers that he is hiding his past and leading a secret, second life, including an insatiable and unexplained need for money. The mystery of the man only intensifies her desire to uncover the truth. Concurrently, the target criminals behind each assignment grow progressively ruthless. The stings are thus, increasingly dangerous. Lives, including Blackie’s are at risk.
I grimace when I see her anywhere near my trading desk.
“Good morning Blackie, how was your weekend?”
Deidra’s voice is pure as if she’s never screamed-out a single word in her life. She sashays across the room in
a blue business-like skirt with a white blouse and a scarf, as if ready to pose for one of those model magazines. Her
dark red nails match her lipstick. She must use a tanning machine. I can’t imagine how much time she spends on that
big jet-black hair. Most female traders I know put their hair in a ponytail at work.
That’s my point, she glams-up every day. It’s all wrong. Why spruce yourself to mud-wrestle? The traders sit
at identical, adjacent workstations. There is little space and no walls. Soon after the market opens at 9:30 a.m., it’s a
scene of messy hair, rolled-up sleeves and undone collars. No one gives a shit how you look. They all understand,
once they put their headset on and their butt in a chair they are to produce trades. When an order comes in, they
shout out the name and the size. By the end of a busy day, half of them are hoarse. There’s the constant hum and
heat from the equipment and the smell of too many bodies close together. After a while, they stand up to stretch; the
chairs kill your back. Don’t you dare miss a trade while you’re in the can. Somebody comes by with coffee and the
I’m studying the three large LED monitors, each flashing arrows, symbols and headlines in white, red, green
and yellow, giving me valuable market insight.
That’s the only reason any of us are here.
She’s waiting for my response. I don’t acknowledge her. I’ll never understand why some people can’t figure
out what’s important. If this woman replaced her hair dryer with a computer screen and studied the overnight news
instead of filing her nails, she could get a jump on the competition. I wonder how many times I’ve told her that–
enough so I won’t again. That she’s standing next to me wasting time is a clear sign she’s out of touch.
I suspect Deidra and I are close to the same age. I’m thirty-two. Over the years, I’ve picked up wrinkles and
extra belly roll, because I sit all day. Yes, there are things called gyms. Once the market closes, I’ve no energy for
that; I am done like dinner, put a fork in me.
Does she think I didn’t hear her? She should know better than to come between my screens and me as I
prepare for the market opening.
I scowl at her.
“Deidra, one of us is working. See if you can figure out which one.”
My voice sounds like sandpaper compared to hers. She makes a feeble gasping noise and shuffles over to her
workstation, where she should have gone. Now, just because she’s a woman, don’t jump to conclusions. I will work
with anybody: female, male, white, black, if you’re green and from Mars, it’s the same. But, if you want to talk
when I’m on the desk it better be about a trade. Besides, I’m not a person you can just walk up to and flap your
gums for no reason. Don’t bother me with the weather, politics or what an over-paid professional athlete did or
didn’t do. I couldn’t care less how your night was or whether you got laid.
Understand this. We sit on a trading desk not at a birthday party. We’re here to help our clients buy and sell
stocks. What we do is cutthroat; the rest of Wall Street does the same thing. We fight for every single transaction.
When you miss one, that commission goes into someone else’s pocket. You can never get it back.
My former boss hired and trained me. Then, without warning, at forty-four years old he keeled over. This
business can take its toll. It sucked, but it got me promoted. He was a weak manager anyway and didn’t run the ship
as tight as he could. Soon after I was in charge, I fired two deadbeats and with Deidra, I’d have had a hat trick, but I
can’t touch the beauty queen. Every time I try, the Human Resources department–HR–says I have to train her and
give her a fair chance. I keep saying, “Impossible. You can’t teach a sense of urgency. We’d be doing her and us a
favor.” They keep saying, “Do it.”
The job requires you to read people, listen between the lines. When I speak with a customer, my view on the
market’s direction, a news flash, or the president’s latest tweet isn’t important. Only the client’s opinion is. I hear
their tone of voice. Do they sound unsure? I try to figure out which way they are leaning, never forgetting they are
all, always motivated by greed or fear. You can’t believe everything they say, because there’s more bullshit on Wall
Street than on a farm. Sometimes the customer is trying to screw you into doing a losing trade at the wrong price,
maybe to cover a mistake he made. If he has paid us lots of commissions, you let him.
Trading takes backbone. When the shit hits the fan, it’s more-often-than-not pointing at you.
My team doesn’t like me. Ask out of my earshot, and stand back. They will call me every name in the book,
which is fine. We aren’t here to make friends. They should thank me; I trained them. They’re now in a league with
the best traders on Wall Street.
My phone bank contains sixty clear plastic buttons, all direct lines. One lights; it’s our biggest client. It’s only
9:15 a.m., which is odd since trading hasn’t started yet. I punch it.
“Blackie, it’s Rocky. We have a huge stock holding for sale. I wanted to show it to you first.”
About the Author
While P.T. Dawkins writes about "crimes of deception," his primary goal is to create characters the reader will remember long after the book is finished. He studied English at Dartmouth College, and is an active post-graduate learner including MBA and CFA degrees and creative writing training from acclaimed authors.
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